December Issue 2001

I was tempted to make this short and tell you just to call me. It sounded great at first but you would all be wondering "what kind of an arrogant fool is this guy?" Education can only help us all and maybe keep you from call Uncle Fred, who used to reupholster furniture, to recover your table. A pool table is really not the same as a piece of furniture. Hopefully, you are not trying to get the right english when you sit on your sofa.

Many establishments have invested a lot of time and money to earn a good reputation with their billiards playing customers. To keep that reputation you need to invest in the quality of your table and its maintenance. There are quite a few individuals offering recovery and maintenance services but not all of them understand exactly what it takes to keep your table in professional playing condition. While a seasoned player may be able to see and compensate for defects in a poorly maintained table, a table that is cleaned, groomed and has consistency of play will keep your pool players happy and they in turn will keep the cash box full.

MAINTENANCE, MAINTENANCE, MAINTENANCE ...


It might be location, location, location with some businesses except if you operate billiards tables and keep them in good shape. Players will find you if they have heard you have great playing tables. Here are some simple things you can do to keep them in professional playing condition.

Vacuum your table, don't brush. Brushing your table is like sweeping your carpet. You push chalk, talc, and dust through the cloth to settle on your slate, slowing play and wearing your cloth from the bottom up. This is also why the head ball in the rack seem to sit like it is in a pit (or a mound of chalk dust). Keeping dust and lint out of your table mechanisms will also cut down on your emergency service calls. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum ... Clean and polish your balls. You can use simple soap and water or put them in a dishwasher. Never use bleach or amonia. These will yellow the balls. After you clean them use a little of what we call "Leo's elixer of life", otherwise known as Pledge. Make sure you polish them well and remove any residue. Clean, clean, clean ... Check you cue sticks. Worn ferrules and tips can really mess up your cloth causing miss-cues and tears. Invest in replacing stick tips. Replace, replace, replace ...

Done on a weekly basis these things will extend the life of your cloth to almost double. More balls will be made on the break, games will be smoother and faster making the game more enjoyable to play.

NICE THREADS MAN ...


I suppose that any article about table maintenance is not complete without a word about the playing surface. I have already explained how a proper recovery with a minimum of adhesive and fasteners, as well as good service schedule of the table and accessories, will prolong the life of the cloth. There are so many different aspects to consider when choosing they type of cloth that recommending one over the other here would not be appropriate. You really need to consider the type of play and personality of you clientele. The basic things to remember are to choose something with minimum shedding, that does not loosen up after a few weeks play and use anything but rubber backed if you have league/pro players. Rubber backed causes the table to play inconsistently and slowly and contributes to fewer games per hour. It can suck the life out of your game. If you keep your cues in good shape you shouldn't need the extra backing of rubber. Finally, don't choose a worsted wool unless you understand it's tendencies first. It wears a lot differently than other cloths and can fool you if you don't know what to look for.

You will surely find some folks who don't agree with everything I have explained here. Anything where there is a melding of art, science and style is bound to be that way. But, after many years in the business I have noticed one thing that is always true: Players will flock to a good table. How many times have I walked into an establishment to do a recovery and had people drooling around me in anticipation of playing a newly tuned piece of equipment? To maximize your cashbox income, have consistent playing rails, high quality cloth and a clean and level table.



RAILING ABOUT RAILS ...
January Issue 2002

OK, this is where I really get my dander up. Bad rails will create more problems than just about anything. They are the trickiest part of the table to maintain and therefore are the place where more shortcuts are taken. Quiz your recovery service about how they handle rails before you let them touch your table.

When someone recovers your table, NEVER allow them to switch out your rails. This might sound odd but it happens on many tables, especially "Valley" and "Dynamo" brands due to their popularity and universal nature. Sometimes a recovery service will have a stock of rails at their shop, from a previous job, already recovered. They simply switch them out at your place of business using yours for the next guy. This would be fine if you knew that the rail was in good condition to begin with. It saves time and in the short run may save you money but your customers will notice immediately if you've gotten a bad set. One bad league night can shoot down your reputation. I have seen a new table with 30 year old rails. Next time you have your table recovered, check to make sure that the rubber is matching, look for a brand name on the rubber. If you have a newer table you should not have mismatched, crystalized, stapled out rails.

Another thing to look for is the type of cloth you are using. If you have chosen a rubber backed cloth, the rubber must be peeled off to recover the rails. This leaves a residue of glue on the back, which melts the rubber after time causing it to get gummy and then crystalize.

Finally, loose rubber on the rail block. This is often caused by people sitting on the table or using the rail to pull themselves up from a crouch position after racking the balls. However, a healthy set of rail should handle this abuse fine if they have been installed properly.





ON THE LEVEL ...
February Issue 2002

We have all heard the cry "the table isn't level". But is it really out of level? There are other reasons that a table will play as if it were not level. Before you mess with a perfectly level table look at a couple of other things.

First, is your cue ball out of balance? To check for level, use an object ball to roll across the table, NOT a cue ball. Cue balls for magnetic return tables are drilled and plugged to trip the return. Some inexpensive cue balls are out of balance right out of the box. A good cue ball will start at about $15 - $20. Are cue balls disappearing with your shadier customers? Try keeping a set of good ones in the back for your league players.

Second, what about your last recovery? Was the cloth installed properly? Is there glue on the top of the slate? Glue on the top of the slate will create a trampoline effect. Balls might roll away from the pocket or rail. The only way to deal with this is to have the table recovered again at which time you must remove all of the glue from the top of the table. NEVER let anyone glue the cloth to the top of your table.

Q:

Regarding your article in the December 2001 issue "Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance".

We recently purchased a nice pool table for our vacation home from Golden West Billiards in Portland, Oregon. Upon completion of delivery and set up we were given guidelines for proper care and maintenance, which included "never vacuum, always brush in one direction". I have owned a 9' table in our own home for over 30 years and this is consistent with what I originally learned as proper cleaning and what I was told by the table service company that moved our table 5 years ago. I am interested as to how or why there are two completely opposite points of view on proper table cleaning. Thanks in advance for any additional light you may be able to shed on this subject.

--received from the internet sent by: klerulli@aol.com

A:

As you might have noticed from the article, my advice was mostly directed at tavern and billiard hall owners. These people usually (not always) invest in a better grade cloth and hopefully a decent grade install. Unfortunately, some home tables are installed with a cloth that might not stand up to the ol' shop vac. Especially if the fit is a bit lacking.

Also, the establishments that sell you a table are in the business to sell - brushes, more cloth, etc. I am not saying that the advice was given to you under false pretenses, just that the information your salesperson had might not be from the experience of maintaining hundreds of tables. Remember that products and technology change and what was once true may not be now. There is a type of cloth that is not the tightest weave, it sheds badly and would need to have this treatment. I have commercial operators whose tables jam up constantly because they have used it. This type of cloth can wear very quickly if you aren't very gentle with it. Of course I advise them to change it. If this method of care works for you, great! Keep at it. The tables that see league play see a lot more dirt and grime and need to have slightly different care than what happens at home. Commercial tables have ball returns and mechanisms that get gummed up because of dirt and shedding, a vacuum is the way to go here.





April Issue 2002

Q:

Is there a proper tightness or torque to tightening down rails? Some of my rails will clunk when a ball is hit to them. We have tried tightening them or loosening them with no results.

A:

As usual with these kinds of questions, it is difficult to know exactly what you problem is without more info but, I will attempt to throw a few ideas out there. I am going to assume that you have one of the typical brands of coin-op tables.

First, how does the ball behave when hit into the rail? Does it rebound well or come off and die? You may have crystalized or otherwise bad rubber that need changing.

Are the rails on your table the ones that came with the table? Do they look like they fit well or are at an improper height? There is a practice with some recovery services to change out rails (without you knowing) so that they can take them back to their shop for recovery. This happens a lot on Valley and Dynamo tables because they are so universal and you can end up with old, worn or improperly fitted rails. Finally and unfortunately there are some tables on the commercial market that have no support at the end rail and could be the source of your problem.





May Issue 2002

Q:

I would like to buy a pool table (3 1/2' x 7') but I am afraid I don't have enough floor space. I have never seen anything that gives an area required for the installation. I hope you can provide me this information because I really want my own table to practice on. Thank you, Merv

A:

The area needed for any table depends on how YOU play and what YOU are willing to shoot with. A 3 1/2' x 7' table generally needs about 13' x 16' to accommodate a 58" cue. However, we supply many 52" and 48" cues to home players who really want a table but can't come up with the optimum space. For a 52" cue the size would be 12' x 15' and for a 48" cue 11 1/2' x 14 1/2'. This assumes a 38" x 76" playing area + the length of the cue to each side + 6" of draw to each side. This formula would give us an optimum space for a 58" cue on an 8' table at 13 1/2' x 17' and a 9' table at 14' x 18'.

One thing you have to remember when talking to anyone in the business is there are many styles of players out there. What is true for one player is not for another and this is a perfect example. A competitive player puts way more importance on the cue he/she uses than a home player who sees the game as a social pastime, neither needs are unimportant. I had a customer who insisted on putting a 4'x 8' table in a room 10' wide. The 48" cues get more than a workout!

If you are serious about how you play, I would recommend that you use this formula to find the size you need for a table: Measure the playing surface area (the area inside the rails). To both the width and the length add the length of the cue to both sides.

Then add the space you want to draw the cue back to both sides and there is what YOU need.





June Issue 2002

Q:

How can I find a quality table? Is there a consumer's report that compares tables by make and model?

A:

I am not aware of any brand-to-brand billiard table comparison but many of the web sites supported by manufacturers will have information on the construction of their particular tables. With a little information at hand you can do some research to compare. I will try to address some of the key things to look for.

First thing probably goes without saying, all tables are not created equal. You must ask yourself what you really want this table to do. Is it entertainment for the kids, are you looking for an heirloom or something in between? How the table is constructed and with what materials should dictate your price.

Low priced tables, those under $1500, are going to have lots of particle board, brackets, faux finishes and either no slate or thin slate. If you want a table for the kids to play on and don't care what happens to it after they fly the coup then by all means go ahead. Don't look for a table that is going to hold it's value or even a level at this price range. Many companies will not service or recover these tables so be careful.

Between $1500 and $2500 it gets more difficult. The trade off in materials and workmanship gets more confusing. Some parts of the table may be particle board, others plywood and still others solid wood. Slate will very in thickness and type. Finishes may be laminate or veneer. You are not going to find a solid wood table at this price, so look closely. Look for a table that has the body completely constructed, not one that has to be put together from pieces. The only parts should be the legs, rails/pockets and slate. Every place that a bolt goes should have something sturdy to hold onto. Plywood is preferable to particle board. The thicker the slate the better and three piece is better than one piece slate.

The next level is almost as confusing but between $2500 - $3000 dollars you can hope to see more solid wood, especially in the structural parts of the table. You can get a table made completely from solid hardwood with furniture finish quality although it may not have a "Big Name" logo on it. Many of these tables are just as good and play just as well as the "Big Names." For most folks this is where you want to be. How good a deal you get may depend on where you are and what the market is in your area. In our area we can offer a completely solid maple table with a 1" three piece slate delivered and set up with good quality cloth and accessories in this price range. Other suppliers may have to ship farther or pay more in overhead, etc., so remember that this is a guideline and not a rule.

At this level and beyond you should look for a body that is solidly constructed with solid wood cross members in the body. They should span both the length and the width of the table. The slate should have wood backing on it to rest completely on the interior body structure. The slate should be 1", three piece, oversized slate. No matter what you have heard, 3 piece slate is better. The rails should be solid wood and bolt directly to the slate. You should be able to get diamond inlays of mother of pearl or such, not plastic buttons. Pockets should be leather and not plastic. Finally, the cloth should be at least a 21 oz. 75/25 wool/nylon blend.

Beyond the $3000 - $3500 range you are going to be paying for the extras; the "name," prettier pockets, extra carving, fancy wood, fast cloth and custom or one of a kind type tables.

The best advice I can give you is to go shopping, compare these items from table to table. Make sure you ask if installation is included. What kind of accessories and cloth are included. Do they have guarantees and stand behind their install? How much experience do their installers have? Looking at a web site? Make doubly sure you ask these questions of the online resellers. There is a lot of false information on some of the so called wholesale sites. Get your info in writing!






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